10 years ago, I was hospitalized for Anorexia. It’s ironic that it is NEDA (National Eating Disorder Awareness) Week because, as I was cleaning up my stuff this past weekend, I started looking through my diaries from the time of my recovery. As I read my old diaries, I felt both sad for my former self and proud of how far I have come. Each entry was filled withs struggle and self loathing.
When I was hospitalized I was so ready to recover. My life had become a nightmare. I was always cold, I thought of food constantly. I was plagued by a kind of hunger that had infiltrated every fiber of my being and reverberated through my hollow skin-stretched bones. I could barely lift my legs to walk up stairs. I had no energy no desire for life or otherwise. I did not even think I looked good– my butt was a concave pelvis, my ribs and bones jutted out. I looked more like the walking dead than a pretty teenage girl, but I was terrified of gaining weight, of losing control, of not being able to stop the hunger that raged inside of me.
Now, 10 years later, I can confidently say that I am no longer “Anorexic.” I still struggle with body image every once in a while but I no longer feel compelled to starve myself and exercise. My life is full and those memories are just that– distant memories. But the journey to getting here was long and hard and took a lot of effort.
For those struggling with an eating disorder now these are my tips for recovery:
- Find a support person- During recovery my mom was invaluable. Every time I felt like I had eaten too much or had a suicidal thought I would call my mom. She lived close enough that we could go for a walk together and she always validated my feelings. Having someone to support you when you are panicking and feeling bad about yourself well help steer you though those difficult times.
- You will be VERY hungry- For a several months after getting out of the hospital, my appetite scared me. I never felt full– even after eating a sandwich with fries and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. It felt like I had lost complete control over my body. In those firstsfew months you are beginning to relearn hunger cues. You have ignored your body so long and malnourished it It will take a while before you will feel truly full, but trust the process because eventually you will start to feel satisfied. You may feel like you are eating a lot right now but your eating will even out and you will begin to recognize signs of fullness again.
- Don’t have an all or nothing mind set- I don’t like the word “relapse” I feel like it gives you permission to slip into old habits. Instead of beating yourself up over a bad day or week or meal, just get back on the horse and keep riding.
- Be easy on yourself- When I was hospitalized, I remember thinking that everything about me was wrong. I felt like I couldn’t trust myself. Eventually I learned that having an eating disorder doesn’t make you a bad person, it doesn’t make your thoughts and feelings “crazy.” Don’t be so hard on yourself. In many ways my experience with anorexia has made me grow as a person.
- Seek treatment- It is VERY hard to recover on your own. If you want to get better, seek out help: a therapist, a treatment program, group counseling. You need to do the work to get better and it is very hard to know what work to do without professional help.
- Know that it does get better- There were many moments during when I wanted to kill myself. I felt like my life was wasted and that it would never get better. But trust me– it does! If you can sit through those negative emotions you will come out so much stronger on the other side!
If you are struggling I hope these tips can help you. Have you struggled with an eating disorder?
You can read my other post about my struggle with anorexia here.